US Fish and Wildlife Service Faces Smuggling Diversity
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Traditional Chinese medicine is known for using an amazing variety of living things. (According to a  book called  Food Around The World, they say themselves that they'll "eat anything with wings except an airplane, and anything with four legs except a table!") One indication is the diversity of flora and fauna that are illegally smuggled through New York City into America, much of which is headed for the various Chinatowns. As a result, the dozen inspectors for the US Fish and Wildlife Service have their hands full at the local airports to interdict unlawful cargos of homeland chow and remedies.

The photo at right is of a cobra pickled in rice wine (said to have health benefits) that came from Thailand.

NY's haul of the wild, New York Post, December 27, 2009

Pickled cobra that "cures" kidney problems. Chinese Viagra made with deer penis. Balms filled with powdered tiger bone. Bushels of bushmeat.

These are just a few of the exotic and unlawful imports that pour into New York City daily.

And when the black-market booty is not seized by federal agents at airports, they can be found on the shelves of China town apothecaries, Bronx botanicas or swap meets in ethnic neighborhoods throughout the city. [...]

A Post interpreter was told recently in Chinatown that he could buy bear gall bladder to clean his blood, and deer penis to improve his sexual prowess.

Inspectors say many strange objects are used in so-called traditional Chinese medicines — thought to cure everything from a toothache to cancer.

Onda said the Chinese use "medicine mules" like other cultures use "drug mules" — smuggling into the country thousands of hidden pills containing ground-up tiger and leopard bone.

"If they get it by us they mule it into Chinatown," he said.

This month, a Liberian-born Staten Island woman, Mamie Manneh, was sentenced to three years probation for smuggling 65 pieces of African bushmeat from illegally poached wild animals. [See blogs about the Liberian monkey meat smuggler.]

Because the laws that govern trade in wildlife make it illegal to import some objects but legal to sell them once they're in the country, City Hall passed a law in 2004 making it illegal to sell any products that claim to contain rhino and tiger parts.

Chinese medicine aficionados apparently don't care that their purchases further deplete endangered species, like tigers.

Chinese eating habits also run toward the exotic, which accounts for China being a petri  dish for infectious diseases, like SARS from a few years back. The civet has been blamed for SARS because of the animal's availability in China's live food markets which are known for unsanitary conditions.

In addition, nonhuman primates can carry ebola and tuberculosis, for example. Public health is another reason to close up the porous border.

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